THE ARMIDALE Rams have been knocked out of the top four on the Group 19 ladder after a crushing 60-10 defeat at the hands of the Hawks at Inverell on Saturday.
The Rams began in strong form, keeping the score at nil-all for the first twenty minutes.
A strong defensive effort prevented the Hawks from converting several opportunities into tries.
Geoffrey Swan and Gary Quinlan scored a try each for the side in the first half, but the team was still behind 18-10 by halftime.
In the second half an early try by the Hawks kept the Rams on the back foot and led to their domination for the rest of the match.
By fulltime the Hawks had scored 42 unanswered points.
Rams player-coach Brian Dennison described the result as 'devastating'.
"Since it was 18-10 I was fairly happy going into the second half and, regardless of what the score was, I think we were the better team in the first half, but it got away from us," he said.
"We were a bit behind and then I think the boys threw in the towel a little early."
With only two games left for the Rams to play, Dennison said it would be difficult for the team to qualify for the semi-finals.
"Hopefully Moree will have only one of the last three remaining games, because if they win two out of three we've got no chance in the semis," he said.
"We're going to have to win against Tingha and Glen Innes in the next two games."
The team has the bye for the next fortnight, but training will continue to avoid a repeat of Saturday's result.
"We're going to try and make training a bit more fun since we're not playing on the weekend," he said.
"Some of the guys will be playing in the reserve side against Warialda on the weekend, so that hopefully this will help the whole team regroup and prepare for the next first grade game."